So today marks the start of our new guest blog spot called Ask The Experts! and we are kicking things off with brilliant contribution by Brighton & Hove’s Senior Pathologist Mr Sean Didcott. Sean is in charge of Brighton Borough Mortuary and we have worked closely with him and his team for many years now, we hope you enjoy our very first contributor!

How did you get into your current profession?

I started working as an Anatomical Pathology Technologist (APT) at the City Mortuary in 2004 and, prior to this, worked within the pathology department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital as a Phlebotomist. I spent some time with colleagues in the mortuary, observing them at work and talking to them to get an understanding of what the role involved, and knew then that this was the career I wanted. Around the same time a position was advertised at the City Mortuary on Lewes Road in Brighton. Despite only having just turned 19 at the time, my application was successful and so my career began. I carried out my studies to obtain my qualifications alongside my practical training and became fully qualified in 2008.

 Do you envisage ever changing your role?

Although my role has changed a lot since I first started working at the mortuary, with increases in management responsibilities and adapting processes in line with updated legislation, I wouldn’t ever consider changing my role. I still enjoy all aspects of my role, from attending the scene of a death to transport the deceased to the mortuary, to assisting pathologists with post-mortem examinations and carefully reconstructing the deceased enabling their loved ones to spend time with them. We work closely with colleagues from various organisations including Police, NHS, Funeral Directors and Local Authority to ensure that the bereaved are fully supported through the process and that the funeral can take place without unnecessary delay.

Are there any myths you can dispel about your profession?

There are some myths that frequently crop up from time to time and I think this is because of things people have seen in films or on television or read in novels. Over the course of my career so far I have provided advice and factual accuracy for many books and television projects, as it is important to me that our work and profession is portrayed as accurately as possible to help avoid any misconceptions. For example, many people think that if they come to the mortuary to see their loved one, they will see the body on a post-mortem table or pulled out of the fridge on a tray. This isn’t the case at all – all mortuaries have a dedicated viewing space allowing the friends and family of the deceased to spend time privately with the deceased. Many people also think that they will not be able to see their loved one after a post-mortem examination has taken place. Again, this isn’t true – although an invasive procedure, there are normally only two incisions made on the body and these are done as discreetly as possible. The APTs then take great care in reconstructing, washing and gowning the deceased.

What do you think you’d be doing instead if you weren’t doing this?

As I have done this job from a very young age, I honestly don’t know! Whilst studying at college I worked for two years in the butchery department of a supermarket, so I would most likely have become a butcher.

What do your friends and family think about what you do?

My friends and family have always been very supportive of my work, particularly as the on-call element can impact our daily lives. Within our household death is regularly discussed and normalised and I have always answered any questions from my step-children in an open and honest way; in fact, my youngest step-son and I occasionally undertake taxidermy together! Often, when people find out for the first time what I do, they usually react in two ways; they either have lots of questions, or they don’t want to know anything!

Do you want to be buried or cremated?

Cremated. This is a personal choice based on my own views.

What kind of funeral do you want for yourself?

I would like my family to be as much or as little involved in the preparation of the funeral and the service itself as they want; I would like the service to be a celebration of my life and a reflection of me as a person, including lots of photographs, videos and music

Tell me what your perfect day looks like! 

My perfect day would be somewhere warm, near a beach with my family, with good food and good wine.